There is often a sigh of relief as the end of the holidays draw near as parents gear up for the transition of their children back to school.
Once for the fact their children are allowed to go back to school, and
Two for the fact that everyone can get back into some form of routine.
Children can react in different ways to this exciting time! Some will be raring to go, looking forward to reconnecting with friends they may not have seen for a while; others may be more focused on the prospect of a new class or new school, and all the strangeness that this entails.
Imagine going back to a new position at work after being on leave. You may know the office, you may know most of the people but your desk has moved, expectations have changed and you have a new team leader. This will probably not hold you back a lot, but I would expect that there are some feelings of unease.
Can you remember what it felt like to start your current job?
I expect you got the job because of your skills and knowledge, which is great, but did you get to choose where you worked, and who with? Probably not.
How long did it take you to feel like you had settled in, a week or two?
If your child is not quite as excited about the return to school as you would expect, or doesn’t come home that first day with a big grin on their face, then consider the feelings going on below the surface.
Have a conversation with them but remember to give your child time to talk; if they are feeling strong emotions then it can take 10 to 15 seconds for them to process what they want to say. Most adults feel uncomfortable with silences longer than 2.5 seconds.
If they express any concerns try asking ‘how come?’ rather than tell them not to worry about it.
If you are not sure how to respond to what they are saying, then don’t say anything. Just be there, use your facial expressions and your presence to provide the support they may need at that time.
When I took my eldest to check out possible high schools the main concern they had was not what I expected. ‘The place looked nice, but I didn’t see any bathrooms!’
Sometimes it is the simple things which trigger the most anxiety. Our conversation continued, we talked about the practicalities of finding your way around a new place. We talked about how others would be feeling too, which helped my child realise that they were not going to be the only new person there, and if the class couldn’t find the right room, they would be in it together.
When my youngest was 16 she was not happy with school, I went in to say goodnight, a routine I have maintained throughout her life, though I no longer read her a book or sing her a song, and the look I got was one I have learnt means I need some space. I backed away, and put a hurt look on my face.
‘Why you looking at me like that?’ she asked me.
‘Because of how you are looking’ I replied.
She stared at me for a while, and I just stood there.
‘I’m really angry about school’ she said,
I walked over to her bed and sat down, ‘tell me about it’ I said.
Forming a new school based routine can be a challenge, even if your child was good last year, that was last year, this is now. They may need some reminders, possibly in the form of a tick sheet or personal prompts of what is expected now they are that little bit older, and may be at a new school.
When you are looking at forming new routines remember it is a really good idea to have two different types, and have them for both ends of the day.
Practical routines - such as packing bags, making lunches and sorting out uniforms
As a parent you can help things go more smoothly by doing all these, but where is the education and learning? If you want to reduce the stress in the mornings; then these kinds of things can usually be prepared in the evenings.
Personal routines - such as having time to talk, brushing hair and teeth, having showers etc.
We can’t really force our children to do these things, as young adults they have a right to privacy. You can encourage, but it is right to expect some form of responsibility from them. This can cause us stress as we want to protect our children from being hurt, or embarrassed; however, some of the best lessons come from their peers. If they forget to look after themselves or choose not to, then I expect their friends will have something to say about it soon enough!
If you are worried about being a nagging parent, then set yourself a plan. Work out how long it usually takes for your children to get up and ready to go and plan to wake them at least half an hour before this to give them time to be fully alert, most people only take 15 minutes, so there is some flexibility.
1. Alarm – 30 min before (If you can use a proper alarm clock, rather than one on a phone.)
2. Personalised wakeup call – 20 min before
3. Breakfast call – possibly! – 10 min before
4. In your face approach – 5 min before the required time
This approach allows your child time to wake up by themselves and hopefully gives you confidence that you don’t need to nag them. FYI it takes at least a week to get into a new wake up routine.
For those who struggle with early mornings, yep I’m one of them, then setting your clock 15 minutes fast can make things easier. For some reason it feels better to get up at 6.30, rather than 6.15, even if you know your clock is lying to you. If you can try getting up yourself before your children, this allows you to do what you need to do in peace and quiet before tackling the children.